We met two “cheerspreaders” when the newly-completed walking trail behind our home opened. In case you’re wondering, these are cheerleaders with powerful impact. They don’t just lead us in cheering on the team, they inspire us to be of good cheer and pass it along. Athletes and regular people like us flocked to the trail to get an outdoor fix while maintaining social distance. Some very fit souls sprinted by in full workout gear. There were bikes, tricycles (youth and adult), e-bikes, strollers, wagons, dog walkers, etc.
Then there was Jim, Cheerspreader #1. He maneuvered his walker up and down the trail, sometimes for hours at a time, with an obvious display of determination and grit. We can see the trail from our back-kitchen window. Often I would see him taking more laps long after we had finished our morning routine and parked our bikes in the garage. Who would guess that the man who seemed to defy the stereotypes of the morning exercise crew would make a powerful impact on the rest of us?
Jim, who asked we use only his first name, always gives a hearty wave and calls out a cheerful greeting when we pass–which we do quite often since the trail isn’t terribly long. He has a smile for everyone he passes. He seems to take special interest in each of us. One day we were working on a project in our back yard and looked over to see him persistently covering the trail just behind our fence. We didn’t expect him to recognize us, but he obviously did. He stopped, flashed his signature smile, and inquired about our welfare. When we asked our neighbors who also use the trail, each of them knew exactly who we were talking about when we described Jim. Even though they didn’t know his name, they said he lifted their spirits each time he passed them.
We didn’t see Jim for a week or two. We were concerned but were relieved to meet up with him on the trail one Saturday morning. It seems he had been going a bit later than we were. We pulled our bikes next to his walker and asked if we could feature him in this newsletter. Surprised, he agreed. We chatted and found out he lives in a subdivision not far from ours. A little research led to Dawn, a mutual friend who has known him for years. She told us at one time he was given an assignment in their congregation to keep watch over her and her family. “He faithfully looked after us and is the sweetest most pure man without guile.”
I figured I had this month’s article in the bag, until we met Cheerspreader #2, Jan Doornbos. He was more mobile than Jim and rode his bike, giving us a pleasant smile as he went by. When we met for the third time that morning, he asked us to put on our brakes because he had something for us. He presented us with a bag of delicious cookie waffles which he carries with him.
He said, “I have one thing in mind and that is spreading comfort and happiness to all I meet.” He is a stand-up comic and had lots of tricks in his bag. He has a nose ring and a harmonica to entertain the kids. We couldn’t suppress our smiles. We’re sharing photos and a short video of him playing that magical harmonica.
Jan (pronounced Yon) came from Holland. He lives with his wife—who was trying to get home in time for a class–on the other side of the trail and a bit east of us. He is a veteran, accompanies his singing dog on his harmonica, and is a painter by trade. He knows the value of a dollar and told us about the Ralph Lauren sweater he purchased at a thrift store for $5 which matched the one his friend got on sale for $200. He generously shared his contact information and his goals with us.
In this pandemic election year, these two men are freely offering a scarce and priceless commodity: good cheer. What a powerful impact they make on all who encounter them. If we take that goodness and share it in our own way on the trails we traverse, we can spread that cheer so its reach extends exponentially. How can you be a model of powerful impact and spread a little cheer in your corner of the world?
Great article. I personally know Jim and it’s just like the article says. He is happy and full of energy every time I see him. Thank you Norma.
Thanks for taking time to read this and share your comment, Fonda. Jim is a wonder.